Extra Credits: “For Whom the Bell Tolls”

This week, we talk about one of The Walking Dead's major themes.

Episode video is on YouTube

Show Notes:

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Recent Comments:

  • "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee"... I know that quote, though I'm not familiar with where it originates.

    Searching the title brings up an Ernest Hemingway novel, though reading it does in fact state the title is a reference to said John Donne poem. It just sounds like such a foreboding line, though, gives you chills almost.

    So even though I haven't played this game yet, I still get what's being talked about, and I totally get it, and love it.

  • I know this thread has been up for a while but I decided to start rewatching some of the episodes (partially boredom , partially to reaquaint myself with some of the topics) and after looking around a bit I realized something. Did anyone else notice that the Metallica song was actually the introduction song in Zombieland? I know it might be looking a little bit much into it but really they do explore the same idea a bit in the movie.

  • What I have problems with is TWD being too obvious when it comes to life-and-death situations. It's always a binary choice: you pick this choice, you save this character, you pick the other, you abandon them. If TellTale really want their players to live with their choices, how about obfuscating them more carefully?

    Since this thread got raised back up, I might as well respond:

    I get what you're saying on the one hand.

    But... I really hate it when games do that.
    Almost as much as when they give you an option that you have every reason to think will do x when in reality it will do y.
    Especially when y is the opposite of x and there is never an actual possibility of getting x to happen.

    Because honestly I think it really sucks when you are prevented from achieving the 'optimal' (or your personally preferred) result in a game just because you didn't do something inane and easy to miss earlier in the game. Or worse yet, earlier in the previous game.
    I'm thinking of Mass Effect 3 here and how I stopped playing it because going from my ME2 save, I could not make peace between the Geth and the Quarian, all due to one single stupid dialogue option where I opted to score some romance points with Tali rather than say something to her about Legion.

    I don't mind it if, say, I have to choose between saving a village full of civilians and delivering word about an impending ambush to nearby army and staying to save the village ends up with the ambush succeeding and the victorious enemy army coming to destroy the town anyway.
    That's a situation where if you think about it, the consequences make sense (usually you get informed that the army you're delivering the message to is there specifically to prevent the enemy from attacking the village. In that case, if you then suddenly hear the village is already under attack you have a reasonable expectation that the village is going to be screwed anyway.).
    But games where failing to pick a single dialogue option or pick up a single item causes a disaster three hours of play later (thus making it far too long ago to go back to a previous save without having to do a significant part of the gamer over again) can go fuck themselves as far as I'm concerned.

    In TWD, your choices don't change what happens, but they change how it happens. That's why the 'Save x or save y' and 'save x or don't save x' options make sense and SHOULD be clear. Because it wouldn't really make sense for the game to go 'and then Lee was responsible for the outcome that Vernon's son died and Duck lived, because Lee didn't tell Vernon's wife that her hair looked nice in the first act and that snowballed into Vernon's family not liking him and then Vernon's son didn't want Lee near while was working on the fence so he wasn't there to save him in time.' as opposed to how the game does it now (Duck lives, Vernon's son dies, this happens either way, but if you save Duck, then Vernon's son dies because you didn't help him, while if you choose to help Vernon's son, it happens despite Lee's actions rather than because of them). If a game's going to radically change the narrative of how something happened based on your choices (as TWD does), then that choice had better be clear.
    Otherwise the choices truly do become meaningless, because not only can you not prevent any 'scripted to die' deaths, you also don't even have any meaningful agency. If every 'choice' you make will result in things that are unrelated to the nature of the choice, then the results aren't actually consequences of your choice, they're the consequences of circumstances outside of your choice. That makes it a gamble. You hedge your bet and hope for the best. They're still the consequences of your character's actions, but they're not the result of what you as the player chose.
    Choosing whether to give someone a weapon and then having them try to use that weapon on another character who kills them in self-defense might be unexpected and even unforeseen, but it's still related to the nature of the choice. Give someone a weapon -> They might use it.
    Choosing whether to give someone a weapon, which results in them giving you cookies in exchange a bit later, which results in a dog smelling you some time later, which results in someone else entirely falling off a roof and dieing much later might, in hindsight, be the result of a perfectly logical and (as they happen) obvious sequence of events, but it's neither a true consequence of your choice, because at no point is this sequence of events related to the nature of your choice. Give someone a weapon -> ??? -> [s:ds45ux9s]Profit[/s:ds45ux9s] Something not directly involving the weapon happens.

    Having it happen in some minor way once or twice in a game is probably not a problem, but when that involves half the choices in your game. Mass Effect is a major offender here. A lot of people don't seem to get that that is the big problem people had with Mass Effect 3's ending. Not that they're all the same with different colours, but that the entire game leading up to it (by that I mean ME3, not ME2) is a constant mess of 'didn't do x in ME/ME2? Then you don't get to do y in ME3'. (Didn't make Legion and Tali be friends? Either the Geth or the Quarians get genocided. Didn't save the data regarding experiments on Krogan performed by Salarian Josef space-Mengele? Eve dies.) and despite this, none of these choices affect the actual ending. In short ME3 ends up reminding you and punishing you for every 'wrong' choice you made across the series, but when the time comes for the money-shot, the ultimate culmination of those choices into the ending uniquely tailored to your choices that were part of all the ME games' sales pitch (the excuse, actually, given for why ME1 and ME2 both had a generic ending based on a binary choice of Save/Screw the Council and Destroy/Capture the enemy base was actually that ME3, being the real ending to the series, would have many more different endings. Three is more than two and it's half again as much, so I suppose you might consider that many.) suddenly none of those choices matter.
    For all the damned unforeseen consequences ME3 throws your way, the ending comes down to a trinary 'choice'. The entire game has been fucking you over for making the wrong choice in what seemed like a trivial decision two games ago, every mistake gets thrown in your face in the form of not being able to get an asset or resolving a conflict in the 'best' way... And the entire game has essentially been teaching you that there's no simple choices without unforeseen consequences in the series, but then, suddenly, your ending gets decided by a simple choice that changes absolutely nothing except the colour of a couple of lighting effects in the end cinematic.
    That's the real reason, even if they don't consciously realize it, why people had a problem with ME3's ending: Because the entire game has been going "All those little insignificant choices you made? They all mattered! They're all affecting what's going to happen! I remember you chose 'x', so now you get to/don't get do 'y'!" and then comes that final choice. The big one. The one you worked for three whole games to make... And not only does it make absolutely fuck all difference, it doesn't even take into account all those small choices that the game obviously remembered. Generic cinematic. End game. Fuck replay value, but DLC!

  • Well this was an eye-opener.

    I finally decided to get around to playing The Walking Dead after having bought it a couple months ago during the Summer Sale. I figured "Why not? Five days till Halloween, I'll do an Episode a day to celebrate." I just cleared Episode 4, recalled "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and decided to rewatch the trilogy of EC episodes on WD, and this episode really resonated with me. It really drove home many of the decisions I made - I made the same decision as Dan - and made me realize just how much this game was really affected me. Many of my decisions in the Second and Third Episodes continued to linger in my mind long after I had stopped the game for the day, and this Episode looks to be no exception.

    I used to hate zombie games with a passion, simply because I've never liked zombies in general, but playing this, I think I'd be willing to give more of them a chance, if only to see more scenarios like this.

  • all of the extra credits team is doing a great job, but i have to admit: if you really believe every person is a gain for humanity, you haven't seen the real world in a while.
    for most of us, the world would be better of without us.

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